There is a definite parallel between the supernatural preparation for the kingdom in history under Moses and the supernatural judgments which shall be poured out upon a rebellious world in preparation for the future Millennial Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ at His second advent. There is the same insolent challenge to the true God on the part of the Gentile powers (Ps. 2:1-3). There will be a similar gracious but infinitely greater preliminary miracle [like Ex. 7:12]—the Rapture of the Church—warning men of the supremacy of Jehovah and the ultimate defeat of all who rebel against Him. There will be the same swift progression in the severity of the divine judgments which follow, and even a striking parallel in the nature of the judgments (cf. Rev. 6:1-17+ through 18). There will be the same victorious outcome, the destruction of the antichrist and his armies in the judgment of Armageddon, and deliverance of the people of Israel (Rev. 19:1-21+). There will be another song of victory, significantly referred to as ‘the song of Moses... and the song of the Lamb’ (Rev. 15:1-3+).3Everything which transpires from this point forward is completely within the control of God. For it is the Lamb Who initiates these events and there is no judgment, famine, or plague of demons which does not ultimately serve God’s purpose in what unfolds. This is seen by the frequently found phrase, it was given which attends both good and bad events recorded here (see commentary on Revelation 6:2+).Since it is the Lamb Who unleashes the events about to transpire, we are not surprised by the close correlation between the sequence of events here and those which Jesus, the Lamb of God, taught would come (see The Synoptic Gospels).They include:4
Each of the scroll’s seven seals (cf. Rev. 5:1+) represents a specific divine judgment that will be poured out sequentially on the earth. The seals encompass the entire period of the Tribulation (Rev. 3:10+), culminating with the return of Christ. It seems best to understand the first four seals as taking place during the first half of the Tribulation, the fifth stretching from the first into the second half, (called the “great tribulation” in Rev. 7:14+ and lasting three and one-half years; Rev. 11:2+; 12:6+; 13:5+) and the sixth and seventh taking place during that “great tribulation.” Apparently the seventh seal contains the seven trumpet judgments (Rev. 8:1+-11:19+) and the seventh trumpet (Rev. 11:15+) contains the seven bowl judgments (Rev. 16:1-21+). The seven seals thus contain all the judgments to the end when Jesus Christ returns.5As the Lamb opens the seals, a sequence of events are initiated which are closely parallel to Matthew 24 (also Mark 13 and Luke 21). The first four seals are set apart from the final three in their common representation by riders on horses.“beginning of sorrows” of Mat. 24:4-8 with the first four seals of Revelation 6:1-8+ and places them during the first half of the 70th week of Daniel.7 He also observes that the Day of the Lord includes the notion of birth pangs (Isa. 13:6-10; 1Th. 5:3), so the first four seals are probably included within the first half of the 70th week (see The 70th Week of Daniel).
Since the beginning of birth pangs of Matthew 24 and the first four seals of Revelation 6+ are the same thing, and since the broad Day of the Lord will include the beginning of birth pangs, we can conclude that the broad Day of the Lord will also include the first four seals of Revelation 6+. . . . Since the beginning of birth pangs of the first half of the 70th week and the first four seals of Revelation 6+ are the same thing, the divine wrath, anger, and destruction of the Day of the Lord will also be associated with the first four seals.8living creatures
The cry itself is very brief—Ἐρχου [Erchou] ! It may be equally rendered Go, or Come! Our translators give it about as often one way as the other. It does not alter the sense here whichever way we take it. It is not an address to John, as many have regarded it, and as the questionable addition to the text—“and see”—would seem to require. John was already on the spot, beholding all that was transpiring, and did not need to be called any nearer, or to remove any further off. And if his nearer approach or further departure had been needed in the case of the first horseman, it could not have been needed for the succeeding ones. But we find the same command repeated in each successive instance. Neither can we explain why it should be such a voice of thundering power, if it was simply to call to the seer.9
The beginning of birth pangs of Matthew 24 and the first four seals of Revelation 6+ are the same thing and will occur during the first half of the seven years of the 70th week. In light of the fact that the beginning of birth pangs will involve false messiahs, it would appear that the rider of the first seal will be a false messiah. . . . Since, . . . God’s Holy Spirit has the function of restraining humanity’s lawlessness, and since the Antichrist will be the ultimate expression of human lawlessness, it would appear that Paul was indicating in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 that the restraining work of the Holy Spirit is the restraint that prevents the Antichrist from being revealed until the right time. The Holy Spirit will continue that restraining work until He, as the restrainer, is removed, at which time the Antichrist will be revealed. Since, as noted earlier, only God has the authority to remove the Holy Spirit’s restraint, and since the Antichrist will be revealed once that restraint is removed, we can conclude that it will be through divine activity that the Antichrist will be turned loose to conquer the world. . . . It is important to note that God declared He will raise up the foolish, idol shepherd (Zec. 11:16).17
The rider on the white horse is more probably to be identified as the Antichrist. If this is not Antichrist, then Revelation does not place Antichrist on the scene of events before the middle of Daniel’s Seventieth Week (in Rev. 13+), and the rider is virtually unidentifiable.18Pre-wrath rapture advocate Marvin Rosenthal finds the idea of God’s release of the Antichrist to be “preposterous:”
If the seals are God’s wrath, then God alone must take direct responsibility for a counterfeit religious system and the emergence of the Antichrist, for that is precisely what the first seal depicts. To attribute the emergence of the Antichrist to God is obviously preposterous. . . . To suggest that the first four seals are God’s wrath is totally unfounded. It strains reason to think that once God begins His Day of the Lord wrath, the Antichrist is able to assume control of the world.19But to take any other view—that the manifestation of Antichrist is under the control of Satan or man—is opposed to biblical teaching. Even if the restrainer is taken to be something or someone other than God Himself (a view we do not hold), who is it that takes the Restrainer “out of the way” so that the “lawless one” is revealed (2Th. 2:6-7)? If the revealing of Antichrist is not subject to the precise timing and permission of God, then what are we to make of a tremendous number of biblical passages which assert the absolute sovereignty of God over all things?Rosenthal lacks an adequate view of the sovereignty of God and how He redirects sin and the depravity of man toward His own ends. There are many examples where sin accomplishes God’s purpose, yet those who sin remain fully responsible for their actions. God is not the author of sin, but all things serve His purpose in the end (Mat. 24:26; Mark 14:21; Luke 22:22; Acts 2:22-23). See Who is the Restrainer?.
The first six seals. . . are thus set here, in order to show us that these judgments do not arise from chance, but are all under Divine control. The great False Messiah of the first Seal cannot be revealed until the appointed moment shall have come and the voice from the throne gives the permissive command “Go!” The judgments cannot fall until the same command is given.20a bow
And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; he shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive; he shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. Through his cunning He shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without human means. And the vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true; therefore seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future. (Dan. 8:23-26+)
There is no question among expositors that Antiochus is in view in this prophecy. What was prophesied was fulfilled literally through him. However, the prophecy looks beyond Antiochus to a future person (the Antichrist) of whom Antiochus is only a foreshadowing. This coming one is said to “stand against the Prince of princes” (Dan. 8:25+). This can be none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the prophecy must go beyond Antiochus and look forward to the coming of one whose ministry will parallel that of Antiochus. From Antiochus certain facts can be learned about the forthcoming desecrator: (1) He will achieve great power by subduing others (Dan. 8:24+). (2) He will rise to power by promising false security (Dan. 8:25+). (3) He will be intelligent and persuasive (Dan. 8:23+). (4) He will be controlled by another (Dan. 8:24+), that is, Satan. (5) He will be an adversary of Israel and subjugate Israel to his authority (Dan. 8:24-25+). (6) He will rise up in opposition to the Prince of princes, the Lord Jesus Christ (Dan. 8:25+). (7) His rule will be terminated by divine judgment (Dan. 8:25+). So it may be concluded that there is a dual reference in this striking prophecy. It reveals Israel’s history under the Seleucids and particularly under Antiochus during the time of Greek domination, but it also looks forward to Israel’s experiences under Antichrist, whom Antiochus foreshadows.22
So before the terrors of the Tribulation break loose and lead to the battle of Armageddon there will come a period of world peace. But it will be a deceptive peace, as the world is lulled into a false sense of security followed by war, famine, and death. The world’s desperate desire for international peace will serve as the bait for the satanic trap. That longing for security and safety will play into the hands of Antichrist, Satan’s ruler, who will convince the world that he can provide them. He will particularly deceive Israel, whose people have for so long desired peace, and he “will make a firm covenant with the many [Israel] for one week” (Dan. 9:27+). Antichrist’s peace pact and protection of Israel will not last, however: “in the middle of the week [the Seventieth Week of Daniel’s prophecy; the Tribulation] he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate” (Dan. 9:27+). The false peace that Antichrist brings will come to an abrupt halt at the midpoint of the Tribulation when he desecrates the temple in Jerusalem, betrays the Jewish people, and launches deadly attacks on them (cf. Mat. 24:4-10). There can and will be no peace until the Prince of Peace sets up His earthly kingdom (Rev. 20:1-6+).23Like Antiochus before him, the Antichrist plays a special role in relation to Israel during the events to come:
God will have specific purposes for bringing Antichrist on the world scene. One purpose will be the punishment of Israel. . . . [the] desolation of Israel by the Antichrist will be part of God’s judgment of the nation because it rejected its Messiah in His first coming [John 5:43]. . . . A second purpose will be the repentance of Israel. . . . God will bring the Antichrist on the world scene to play a major role in shattering [Israel’s] rebellion [Dan. 12:7+]. . . . A third purpose will be the judgment of the world. . . . God will judge the world by giving it the kind of ruler it deserves. . . . A fourth purpose will be the exposure of the world’s unbelief. God will bring the Antichrist on the world scene and permit him to make his claim to be God to demonstrate mankind’s unbelief, . . . A fifth purpose will be the instigation of the final showdown between Christ and Satan’s forces and the defeat of those forces.24a crown
He will be endowed with the most extraordinary powers, so that “he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people” (Dan. 8:24+). Before his exploits the fame of Alexander and Napoleon will be forgotten. None will be able to stand before him. He will go “forth conquering and to conquer” (Rev. 6:2+). He will sweep everything before him so that the world will exclaim, “Who is like unto the Beast? who is able to make war with him?” (Rev. 13:4+). His military exploits will not be confined to a corner, but carried out on a vast scale. He is spoken of as the man who will “shake kingdoms” and “make the earth to tremble” (Isa. 14:16).27
Ezekiel 34:23-30 says that when God establishes His covenant of peace with Israel, the covenant will result in safety, peace with nations, and the elimination of harmful beasts by famine. By contrast, when the Antichrist establishes his covenant of peace with Israel [Dan. 9:27+], God will inflict the world with conditions opposite of those His covenant of peace will bring. He will unleash war (the sword) [the second seal, Rev. 6:3-4+], famine (the third seal, Rev. 6:5-6+), and harmful beasts (the fourth seal, Rev. 6:7-8+) upon the earth to demonstrate that the Antichrist’s covenant of peace is not the covenant of peace that will bring true safety, as foretold in the Old Testament.28
For thus says the LORD God of Israel to me: “Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it. And they will drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword that I will send among them.” Then I took the cup from the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations drink, to whom the LORD had sent me. (Jer. 25:15-17)This is the pattern of God’s judgment to nations who reject Him—He makes them mad and turn upon one another (Eze. 38:21). “While Scripture does not give the details, the advances in modern weaponry suggest a terrible, unimaginable holocaust.”32
It is argued that Rev. 6:6+ refers to Domitian’s edict against vines in AD 92, a measure which may have been intended as a drastic means of increasing corn production, but which hit Philadelphia with exceptional severity because of its dependence on viticulture.38
Because of the earthquake, which drove them from the city proper, and because of the fertility of the soil, many of the people had turned to farming as a means of livelihood, specifically to the cultivation of vineyards. Apparently, because of famine, in A.D. 92 Domitian issued an edict that at least half the vineyards in the provinces be cut down and no new ones planted. This action was designed to increase production of corn which the Empire needed badly. This crisis affected Philadelphia more critically than any other, because no city of Asia depended on the fruit of the vine more than it. Dionysius, god of wine, was the principal deity.39This seems unlikely for the four horsemen ride out after the Lamb begins opening seals—something which remains future even to our own day. Moreover, it appears Domitian’s edict was not motivated in response to famine.40 Others have understood the reference to oil as pertaining to the marking upon the foreheads of the servants of God who are anointed for protection during this time (Rev. 7:3+; 9:4+; 22:4+), but this seems unlikely since the context concerns food supply and famine.Another suggestion is that the common commodities are hard to come by, but luxury items will remain available for the upper classes.
This intimates that the famine is by no means universal: yea, it suggests that side by side with abject suffering there is abundance and luxury.41
Some interpreters have suggested that the brunt of the suffering falls upon the poorer classes, but the rich are left largely untouched, but this is a less likely interpretation, for while fine wine and oil could be understood of the luxuries belonging to the rich, the poorer quality product may be in view here as descriptive of the ordinary provisions used by the common people.42
One of the great criticisms of the present time is that there is scarcity in the midst of plenty. This is the situation which will be accentuated a thousandfold when the Antichrist begins his reign. It is a social maladjustment.43Still another idea is that the oil and wine denote medicinal supplies. That although food will be lacking, there will be an abundance of medicine.44 This seems unlikely in view of the catastrophic conditions (medicinal supplies require careful storage and efficient distribution) and the number of deaths inferred.Others suggest another possibility. They point to a similar passage in 1 Samuel which records famine conditions caused by rainy conditions which destroyed the grain crop, but under which vineyards and olive trees would flourish:
The proper understanding of the phrase “do not damage the oil and the wine” is found in an event recorded in 1 Samuel 12. . . . Samuel was threatening to call upon the Lord to bring thunder and rain as punishment. Why? . . . Heavy rains at the time of harvest would destroy the wheat, thereby bringing famine. . . As Nogah Hareuveni of Neot Kedumim, the Biblical Gardens of Israel, has pointed out: “The ripe, heavy-eared wheat can suffer from a downpour not only through physical damage from the force of the wind-driven rain, but also by rotting from the sudden moisture combined with the high temperatures that prevail in Israel by Shavuot (in late May-early June). This interpretation explains why the Israelites cried out to Samuel ‘pray. . .to save us from death’ (1S. 12:19)—from death by starvation that would follow the destruction of the grain crop.”. . . “the oil and the wine,” will not be affected by this rainstorm because they will have already been pollinated. In fact, the water might even help them, thus giving oil and wine for all, rich and poor alike.45The reverse scenario might also be possible: that of drought. “Since the roots of the olive and vine go deeper, they would not be affected by a limited drought which would all but destroy the grain.”46 However, the nature of the famine which attends these “beginning of sorrows” (Mat. 24:8) is probably uniquely severe in history and argues against understanding the distinction between food items as denoting a limited famine. This situation contrasts with a locust-induced famine, such as that of Joel, in which all crops were ruined: “The field is wasted, the land mourns; for the grain is ruined, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails” (Joel 1:10).
The problem with taking this as a reference to limited famine is that it underrates the severity of the seals. This famine will be serious enough to make it unique in history up to that time. The world has already seen many limited famines, but never one like this. . . . So it is wrong to take a major feature such as this prohibition against hurting the oil and the wine and interpret it as a limitation on human hardship. It indicates rather the inequity that will prevail. The poor will have it extremely hard while the wealthy will experience no interruption to their luxurious lifestyle.47Both oil and wine are listed among the commercial wealth of Babylon at the time of her destruction (Rev. 18:13+). See commentary on Revelation 18:13.
Properly, “greenish-yellow,” like young grass or unripe wheat. Homer applies it to honey, and Sophocles to the sand. Generally, “pale, pallid.” Used of a mist, of sea-water, of a pale or bilious complexion. Thucydides uses it of the appearance of persons stricken with the plague (ii., 49). In Homer, it is used of the paleness of the face from fear, and so as directly descriptive of fear (“Iliad,” x., 376; xv., 4). Of olive wood (“Odyssey,” ix., 320, 379) of which the bark is gray.49
The word to describe the fourth horse’s color, chlōros (“pale green”), is the color of grass and other vegetation in Mark 6:39 and Rev. 8:7+; 9:4+, but in the present connection, designates the yellowish green of decay, the pallor of death. It is a pale ashen color that images a face bleached because of terror. It recalls a corpse in the advanced state of corruption (Ford).50Death, and Hades followed
If today’s  world population figure of five billion is used, . . . “one fourth of the earth” means that Death and Hades have authority, which they apparently will exercise, to take the lives of one and a quarter billion people. The magnitude of this catastrophe can hardly be grasped because nothing comparable has happened throughout history (Swete). If limited to two continents, which it will probably not be (Beckwith; Lenski; Mounce), it will amount to the elimination of people from two of the world’s most populous ones (Walvoord).51Since Thomas wrote, the world population has risen to over 6 billion [December 2003] which would result in the death of over 1.5 billion people.52 This number would be reduced by the believers in Christ who are taken in the Rapture prior to this period.sword. . . hunger. . . death. . . beasts
Throughout human history, disease has killed people on a far more massive scale than war. More Union and Confederate soldiers died from disease during the Civil War than were killed in battle. An estimated 30 million people died during the great influenza epidemic of 1918-19 —more than three times as many as the estimated 8.5 million soldiers who died in battle during World War I.55Those who survive the first three will be so weak as to be unable to defend themselves from wild beasts which will become emboldened and attack them.
So it shall be a reproach and a taunt, an instruction and an astonishment, unto the nations that are round about thee, when I shall execute judgments on thee in anger and in wrath, and in wrathful rebukes; (I, Jehovah, have spoken it;) when I shall send upon them the evil arrows of famine, that are for destruction, which I will send to destroy you: and I will increase the famine upon you, and will break your staff of bread; and I will send upon you famine and evil beasts, and they shall bereave thee; and pestilence and blood shall pass through thee; and I will bring the sword upon thee: I, Jehovah, have spoken it. (Eze. 5:15-17) [emphasis added]
Thus says the Lord GOD: “Pound your fists and stamp your feet, and say, ’Alas, for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! For they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. He who is far off shall die by the pestilence, he who is near shall fall by the sword, and he who remains and is besieged shall die by the famine.” Thus will I spend My fury upon them. (Eze. 6:11-12) [emphasis added]From these passages we understand that what seem like intensified natural disturbances (war, hunger, death, attack by beasts) are in fact expressions of God’s judgment. Thus God’s wrath is already seen in the fourth seal—well in advance of the sixth and seventh seals.56 The picture being drawn is one of no escape. No matter which group or location a man finds himself in, there is a God-ordained judgment which will result in death:
For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: “How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the evil beasts, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast!” (Eze. 14:21) [emphasis added]
Thus shalt thou say unto them, “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: ‘As I live, surely they that are in the waste places shall fall by the sword; and him that is in the open field will I give to the beasts to be devoured; and they that are in the strongholds and in the caves shall die of the pestilence.’ ” (Eze. 33:27) [emphasis added]Amos predicted this character of the day of Jehovah: “Woe unto you that desire the day of Jehovah! Wherefore would ye have the day of Jehovah? It is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. Shall not the day of Jehovah be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:18-20).There is intentional irony in God’s reversal of roles as men become the source of food for beasts (Gen. 9:2-3 cf. Eze. 29:5; 39:17-20; Rev. 19:17-18+). When man is disobedient to God, He reverses the original divine order where man was given dominion over the beasts (Gen. 1:26-28; 9:2-3) and gives man into the hand of beasts (Lev. 26:22; Deu. 32:24). The beasts will be emboldened both because of the emaciated and sickly condition of men and the scarceness of their own food supply. “Once food becomes scarce, wild animals which generally leave man alone will begin to attack man for food.”57
All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. (Mat. 24:8-10) [emphasis added]The beginning of sorrows have passed and the Great Tribulation is now upon the world, a time of unprecedented martyrdom and anti-Semitism (Mat. 24:15-22; Rev. 12:6+, 13-15+). “The futurist interpretation takes these as the first martyrs of the tribulation of Daniel’s 70th Week. The fifth seal corresponds to Mat. 24:8-28, martyrdoms.”60 under the altar
The picture of souls immediately in God’s presence after death is in harmony with 2Cor. 5:8, and the fact that the martyrs are beneath the altar is consistent with the symbolism of Lev. 4:7, for the priest poured the blood of the sacrifice at the bottom of the altar, and the blood represented the life of the sacrifice (Lev. 17:11-14). So these martyrs will sacrifice their lives for God, and Heaven acknowledges this.63Some see this altar to be the altar of incense rather than the altar of sacrifice.64 Yet the location of the martyrs under the altar has more in common with the altar of sacrifice and there is no compelling reason to connect this altar with the altar of incense upon which the prayers of the saints are offered.the souls
Their slaying, then, is not the end of them. It is not the total interruption of their being in all respects. It makes them invisible to men in the flesh, in the natural state; but it does not hinder their living on as souls, or their being visible to heavenly eyes, or to the eyes of John in his supernatural and prophetic exaltation. The holy Apocalyptist tells us that he “saw” them, although they “had been slain;” and heard them speaking with loud voices, though their material tongues had been burnt to ashes, and their corporeal organs of speech had been stiffened in death. It is altogether a wrong interpretation of the Scriptures which represents the dead in a state of non-existence, unconsciousness, or oblivion.66who had been slain for the word of God
A. T. Robertson, who has been acclaimed as America’s premier Greek authority of the 20th century, indicates that the verb form translated “were slain” in Revelation 6:9+ represents action that was completed before the action of the main verb “saw” . . . The fact that John did not see believers being slain, but instead saw the disembodied souls of saints who had been slain before he saw them, forces the conclusion that when Christ breaks the fifth seal, it will not cause the martyrdom of those saints . . . The martyred saints of the fifth seal will be living and dying during the first four seals.67But it is difficult to avoid the emphasis a plain reading of the verse puts upon the timing of the fifth seal and the revelation of the martyrs. It seems clear that with the opening of the fifth seal God intends us to realize that we have gone past the beginning of sorrows into the actual Tribulation period. See Trouble Ahead.By now, a heightened religious persecution attends the events upon the earth for these saints did not perish due to beasts, famine, pestilence, or war—but were slain for the word of God. Their testimony was seen as a dangerous and undesirable witness against the false religious system riding the beast (Rev. 17:6+). At this point in the sequence of events, the Antichrist has not yet become the center of all worship:
[Some assume] that the fifth seal saints are martyred because they would not bow to the Antichrist. But, again, there is nothing in the context of the fifth seal to indicate this. To be sure, they are martyred for their faith. But it does not say that it was specifically for refusing to bow down to the Antichrist. The self-proclamation of deity by the Antichrist takes place at the time of the Abomination of Desolation (Mat. 24:15; 2Th. 2:4) which, . . . happens at the midpoint of the seven years. In Revelation, that midpoint begins with chapter eleven, when the Temple is taken over by Gentiles for 42 months (the second three and one-half years). Then Antichrist proceeds to remove all opposition by killing the two witnesses (Rev. 11+) and persecuting the Jews (Rev. 12+). He then proclaims himself to be God and sets up his image (Rev. 13+). Only those saints in and subsequent to chapter thirteen are being killed for refusing to accept the Antichrist.68
The revelation of the fifth seal makes clear that in the future time of tribulation it will be most difficult to declare one’s faith in the Lord Jesus. It may very well be that the majority of those who trust Christ as Saviour in that day will be put to death. This is confirmed in Revelation 7+ where another picture of the martyred dead of the tribulation is given, and in Revelation 13+ where death is inflicted on all who will not worship the beast. Martyrdom in those days will be as common as it is uncommon today.69the testimony which they held
This section of Scripture is the first intimation that the reign of Antichrist is to witness the greatest revival that the world has ever seen. More millions will be saved under the preaching of God’s witnesses in these seven years than in many times that period in this present age.74Their request has much in common with the prayers of the saints in the bowls in Revelation 5:8+ and is recorded by the Psalmist, “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs - O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render punishment to the proud. Lord, how long will the wicked, How long will the wicked triumph?” (Ps. 94:1-3).The “golden age” to be ushered in by the preaching of the gospel as all the world turns to Christ is an unscriptural myth. A golden age will come, but not by worldwide response to the gospel:
Surely this ought to be sufficient to convince all Christians today that the gospel is not intended to cover the world, or to bring in universal peace and blessing. This dispensation of grace (rejected) is to be followed by a dispensation of judgment. Not until after that shall Jerusalem be the centre of God’s presence and government.75
The Gospel, as now preached, is not, and in the present order of things never will be, triumphant. This is demonstrated in the seven Epistles, and is the common teaching of the Scriptures on the subject. A leading feature in its entire history is, that it is mostly rejected. It is universally preached “as a witness to all nations,” but nations, as such, with all their patronage, have never received it, and have ever been the slayers of its witnesses.76killed as they were
The magnitude of the earthquake and cosmic disturbances that will occur when Christ breaks the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12-14+) forces the conclusion that this will be an awesome expression of the wrath of God, not the work of unregenerate mankind.79When the sixth seal is opened, there are unmistakable global signs of astronomical proportions, but the Lamb has yet to ride forth on His horse (Rev. 19:11+)—He is still in heaven loosing seals. How can His riding forth to destroy the armies of the earth be tonight if none of these unmistakable signs have transpired? Yet Scripture teaches His coming is imminent. The answer to this dilemma, as we’ve seen, is in recognizing that signs precede His final arrival in judgment, but not His coming as a bridegroom for His bride—a separate coming which precedes these events. See Rapture.By the time of the sixth seal, the Day of the Lord must be already underway. Having already come without warning, like a thief in the night, it is now made unmistakable to the earth dwellers in the cosmic signs which attend this seal:
Paul declared that the broad Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night—suddenly, unexpectedly, when the victims are unprepared [1Th. 5:2]. A thief depends upon the element of surprise for success. He does not give his intended victims a forewarning of his coming. Paul’s point—the unsaved will be given no forewarning of the coming of the broad Day of the Lord—rules out any of the seals of Revelation as being forewarnings of the beginning of the broad Day. For example, it rules out the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12-14+) which will cause great cosmic disturbances and a major earthquake causing the people of the world to flee to the mountains in terror (Rev. 6:15-17+). . . . if the disturbances of the sixth seal were a precursor to the Day of the Lord, the unsaved thereby would be given a graphic forewarning of its coming and will not be caught by surprise when it comes. Thus, the Day of the Lord would not come unexpectedly like a thief in the night.80a great earthquake
For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. . . . I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots And those who ride in them; the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. ‘In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel My servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ says the Lord, ‘and will make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you,’ says the Lord of hosts. (Hag 2:6-7, 22-23)Joel saw earthquakes associated with the mighty judgments of God poured out in the Day of the Lord, judgments which were intended to cause people to turn to God.
The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness. The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it? “Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” (Joel 2:10-12)The earthquake affects more than just the face of the earth. Σεισμὸς [Seismos] means “shaking; of a storm on the sea, with waves caused by high winds [Mat. 8:24].”83 In the Septuagint, it is used in Joel 2:10 to describe the heavens trembling.84 This catastrophic event extends beyond the geography of the earth to effect the cosmic realm.the sun became black as sackcloth of hair
The Isaiah 13:9-10 and Joel 3:14-15 passages [concerning cosmic disturbances] clearly take place within the Day of the Lord, . . . Joel 2:30-31 describes cosmic disturbances before the Day of the Lord. In the prophetic scheme of things, there are several cosmic disturbances.86
There are reasons for concluding that the cosmic disturbances related to the beginning of the Joel 3 Day of the Lord and the Second Coming of Christ immediately after the Great Tribulation are not the same as those of the sixth seal. First, the cosmic disturbances of Joel 3 will occur when the armies of the nations have gathered for war in Israel. Those armies will not begin to gather for war until the sixth bowl has been poured out (Rev. 16:12-16+), long after the sixth seal—one seal, seven trumpets, and five bowls after the cosmic disturbances of the sixth seal. . . . other cosmic disturbances will occur after those of the sixth seal. A third of the sun, moon, and stars will be darkened by the fourth trumpet (Rev. 8:12+); the sun will be darkened by smoke from the abyss at the fifth trumpet (Rev. 9:1-2+); the sun will scorch people on the earth with fire and fierce heat when the fourth bowl is poured out (Rev. 16:8-9+). . . . when the cosmic disturbances of the sixth seal take place, kings, military men, and all other classes of people will run to the caves and rocks of the mountains to hide. . . . By contrast, when the cosmic disturbances immediately before the Joel 3 Day of the Lord occur after the sixth bowl, the kings and military men will not run and hide. Rather, they will remain assembled together in battle array to boldly attempt war against God, His Messiah, and the holy angels (Ps. 2:1-3; Joel 3:9-16; Zec. 12:2-9; 14:1-6, 12-14).87The sun and moon were created for “signs” (Gen. 1:14).88 They now provide indication that the events associated with this seal cannot be explained by natural phenomena—but result from the One Who controls the universe!The darkening of the sun may be from the perspective of viewers on the earth—due to material ejected into the upper atmosphere by the earthquake or the impact of asteroids in the next verse. Although the sun is darkened, the moon continues to reflect light (as if the path light follows between the sun and moon is only minimally affected). In the fifth trumpet judgment, it is smoke which darkens the sun (Rev. 9:2+).Eventually, like the earth, the sun and moon are judged to show those who dwell on the earth Who the true source of light is—the Lord Himself. If the trend in our own day is any indication, worship of the heavenly bodies will still be prevalent at that time and so God interferes with that which man has idolized (Zep. 1:5).89 As always, the message is to turn from dead idols to serve the living God:
The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended. (Isa. 60:19-20)the moon became like blood
The stars proper are certainly still found in their places after the fulfilment of this vision. (See Rev. 8:12+.) And remembering that the Scriptures often speak in the common language of men, without reference to the distinctions of science, and that even science itself still popularly speaks of “falling stars,” when it means simply meteoric phenomena, it appears but reasonable that we should understand the apostle to be speaking of something of the same sort.91
The most likely identification of these particular falling stars is that of a great swarm of asteroids that pummel the earth. Such an event has never occurred in historic times, but scientists have long speculated about the probability of either past or future earth catastrophes caused by encountering a swarm of asteroids.92“The sixth seal presents a disturbance of nature so vast that we naturally seek to explain it as hyperbole,”93 but this is not merely hyperbolic language.94 (See Interpreting Symbols.) These are the very signs that Jesus predicted would attend the period preceding His return:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Mat. 24:29-30 cf. Mark 13:24-25; Luke 23:44-45; Rev. 1:7+) [emphasis added]Isaiah had been shown this fearsome time:
Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger. (Isa. 13:9-13) [emphasis added]In these judgments, God is shattering the puny pillars of support which men trust in when they turn away from Him.
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (Heb. 12:25-28) [emphasis added]The increasingly severe judgments which fall during this period are specifically designed to remove hope in all else but God so that all creatures recognize their utter dependence upon the Creator. Hope placed anywhere else is idolatry. God now begins a systematic destruction of the natural order (sun, moon, stars, earth) which men have often deferred to in place of the Creator.95 In its failure to recognize the Creator, environmentalism eventually fails in its effort to preserve the creation.
Come near, you nations, to hear; and heed, you people! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world and all things that come forth from it. For the indignation of the LORD is against all nations, and His fury against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to the slaughter. Also their slain shall be thrown out; their stench shall rise from their corpses, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; all their host shall fall down as the leaf falls from the vine, and as fruit falling from a fig tree. (Isa. 34:1-4) [emphasis added]Passages such as this tempt the interpreter to jettison the literal approach and “go symbolic.”96 Yet events which are so far removed from our daily experience as to be completely foreign need not be incredible when initiated by the hand of the Almighty. It is as if we were to try to explain the design of a nuclear plant to the ant! The construction of the starry realm is far beyond our grasp and the description which meets us here is at best an approximation which only hints at the full dimensions of what transpires. Clearly, it is an enormous and terrifying sight which could not even begin to be explained by modern physics. “This is the human perception of the magnitude of the disturbance, but is not the ultimate passage of the heavens, which does not come until Rev. 20:11+; . . . The impression of all these heavenly phenomena is that the universe is coming apart.”97 In response to these events, men recognize the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16+). Mills offers an unusual suggestion concerning the purpose for the splitting of the sky:
In order to ensure that there is no misunderstanding on the source of these disasters, God will open the heavens for an instant, and the people on earth will be given a glimpse of God and the Lamb on their thrones (Rev. 6:16+). Revelation 6:14+ pictures an extended scroll suddenly being split; the two ends recoil, spring-like, around the end rod to which the scroll is attached. Suddenly, earth can peer into Heaven as Stephen did in Acts 7:56. Man sees Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb. Men will know they are experiencing the wrath of God, and this knowledge will be even more fearsome to them than the great natural catastrophes they will have endured.98every mountain and island was moved out of its place
For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? (2Cor. 2:15-16)At the scene of God’s final judgment of the ungodly, there will be nowhere available to hide from His face, for heaven and earth will have fled away (Rev. 20:11+). All things are naked in His sight!102 who sits on the throne
The primary Old Testament passages from which the images in the sixth seal are drawn prove that the great day must be the Day of the Lord (Isa. 2:10-11, 19-21; 13:9-13; 34:4, 8; Eze. 32:7-8; Hos. 10:8; Joel 2:11, 30; Zep. 1:14; Mal. 4:5).104
First, the expression the Day of the Lord refers to God’s special intervention into world events to judge His enemies, accomplish His purpose for history, and thereby demonstrate who He is—the sovereign God of the universe (Isa. 2:10-22; Eze. 13:5, 9, 14, 21, 23; Eze. 30:3, 8, 19, 25-26). Second, several Days of the Lord already have occurred in which God demonstrated His sovereign rule by raising up nations to execute His judgement on other nations. For example, He raised up Babylon to judge Egypt and its allies during the 500s B.C. (Jer. 46:2, 10; Eze. 30:3-6). However, the Bible also foretells a future Day of the Lord.105
At the outset of the day of the Lord, human trials will be prolonged and comparable to a woman’s labor before giving birth to a child (Isa. 13:8; 26:17-19; 66:7-9; Jer. 30:6-8; Mic. 4:9, 10; cf. Mat. 24:8; 1Th. 5:3). This phase of growing human agony will be climaxed by the Messiah’s personal return to earth to terminate the period of turmoil through direct judgment.106The great day which has been on the horizon for thousands of years has finally arrived. Men will experience unparalleled fear and conditions that have never before prevailed upon the earth:
Wail, for the day of the LORD is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will be limp, every man’s heart will melt, and they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them; they will be in pain as a woman in childbirth; they will be amazed at one another; their faces will be like flames. Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. (Isa. 13:6-9)The proud technologies of man, and infrastructure upon which it depends, will quickly collapse in the midst of this time of divine retribution. Death will be so common that burial will be uncommon as the flesh of men is treated as so much garbage:
The great day of the LORD is near; It is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers. “I will bring distress upon men, and they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like refuse.” (Zep 1:14-17) [emphasis added]
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch.” (Mal 4:1-2)Not only will God pour forth his wrath upon the Gentile nations, but the Jewish nation will also undergo a time of unparalleled trouble designed to purge out the unbelieving rebels and turn the remainder back to God. In the midst of this intense judgment, God has promised that a believing remnant will survive (see Jacob’s Trouble and the Great Tribulation):
Now these are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah. “For thus says the LORD: ’We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask now, and see, whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor, and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.” (Jer. 30:4-7) [emphasis added]Jesus also spoke of this fearful time:
And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. (Luke 21:25-26)This is that great day for which the angels who did not keep their proper domain are reserved for judgment—they will be used in judgment against men (Rev. 9+). See The Day of the Lord, Jacob’s Trouble and the Great Tribulation.The wrath is said to be of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16+). This is extremely significant because those who are covered by the blood of the Lamb prior to this day (1Pe. 1:17-19) are exempted from experiencing His wrath—they are His bride (Luke 21:36; Rom. 5:9; 1Th. 5:9; Rev. 3:10+). See commentary on Revelation 3:10. See Rapture.has come
The only time an aorist indicative speaks of something future or something about to happen, however, is if it is a dramatic aorist (H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament [New York: Macmillan, 1927], p. 198), a futuristic aorist (BDF, par. 333 ), or a proleptic aorist (Nigel Turner, Syntax, vol. 3 of A Grammar of New Testament Greek [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1963], p. 74). Some contextual feature must be present to indicate clearly these exceptional usages. No such feature exists in the context of the sixth seal, so these special uses are not options here. . . . The verb in Rev. 6:17+ must be a constantative aorist looking back in time to the point in the past when the great day of wrath arrived.112When we examine the immediate context of this passage—the seismic and astronomical disturbances—we find that Isaiah elsewhere attributes these phenomena as being part of the Day of the Lord:
Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts Shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up-And it shall be brought low—upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan; upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up; upon every high tower, and upon every fortified wall; upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all the beautiful sloops. The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day, but the idols He shall utterly abolish. They shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily. In that day a man will cast away his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made, each for himself to worship, to the moles and bats, To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the crags of the rugged rocks, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily. (Isa. 2:10-21) [emphasis added]Isaiah tells us that in that day, not before the day, men will hide in holes of the rocks and caves.113 They are hiding from the terror of the LORD when He arises to shake the earth mightily. Their hiding is not anticipatory, but reactionary. In other words, the events of the sixth seal are part of the Day of the Lord.
The reaction of the unbelieving world to the terrors unleashed by the sixth seal will not be one of repentance (cf. Rev. 9:21+; 16:11+), but of mindless panic. They will finally acknowledge what believers have been saying all along, that the disasters they have experienced are God’s judgment. [emphasis added]114In what way could the events of the sixth seal be said to be “Man’s wrath” [emphasis added]115 as pre-wrath rapture advocates hold? These events occur “when He opened the sixth seal” [emphasis added] (Rev. 6:12+). Who is He? The Lamb of Revelation 6:1+! It is Jesus Christ who directly initiates these judgments. And how could astronomical and seismic manifestations such as these reflect the wrath of puny men? For what man could cause asteroids to fall to the earth and the sky to recede as a scroll (Rev. 6:13-14+)?
Isaiah 2:10-22 foretold the future time when people, including the proud and lofty, will flee in terror to hide in the holes of the rocks and caves of the earth “for the fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth” (Isa. 2:11). . . . note that Isaiah indicated he was writing about the Day of the Lord, from which we can conclude that the Day of the Lord . . . will include the sixth seal, and that seal will involve Day of the Lord wrath.116See When Does the Day of the Lord Dawn?who is able to stand
But then, amazingly, even this would pass. After these few terrifying days, the stars stopped falling and the terrible shakings ceased. The survivors emerged from their shelters and began again to rationalize their resistance to God. After all, these calamities could be explained scientifically, so perhaps they had been too quick to attribute them to God’s wrath. They quickly set about rebuilding their damaged structures and became more resolute in their opposition to the gospel of Christ.117
The book of Revelation discredits those who hold that God is so loving and kind that He will never judge people who have not received His Son. Though the modern mind is reluctant to accept the fact that God will judge the wicked, the Bible clearly teaches that He will. The Scriptures reveal a God of love as clearly as they reveal a God of wrath who will deal with those who spurn the grace proffered in the Lord Jesus Christ. The passage before us is a solemn word that there is inevitable judgment ahead for those who will not receive Christ by faith.118Dear reader, is your citizenship in heaven? Or do you remain an earth dweller yet?
Friends and brethren, what a mercy that day is not yet upon us! There is a Rock to which we still may fly and pray, with hope of security in its wide-open clefts. It is the Rock of Ages. There are mountains to which we may yet betake ourselves, and be forever safe from all the dread convulsions which await the world. They are the mountains of salvation in Christ Jesus. I believe I am addressing some who have betaken themselves to them. Brethren, “hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering; for He is faithful that promised.” (Heb. 10:23.) But others are still lingering in the plains of Sodom, who need to take this warning to heart as they never yet have done. O ye travellers of the judgment, seek ye the Lord while He may be found, and call upon Him while He is near! And may God in His mercy hide us all from the condemnation that awaits an unbelieving world!119Amen!
1 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), Rev. 6:1.
3 Alva J. McClain, The Greatness Of The Kingdom (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1959), 56.
4 Keith H. Essex, “The Rapture and the Book of Revelation,” in Richard L. Mayhue, ed., The Master’s Seminary Journal, vol. 13 no. 1 (Sun Valley, CA: The Master’s Seminary, Spring 2002), 230.
5 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 6:1.
6 Albrecht Durer (1471 - 1528). Image courtesy of the Connecticut College Wetmore Print Collection.
7 “Both passages involve similar descriptions to the approaching end.”—Renald E. Showers, The Pre-Wrath Rapture View (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 11. “The beginning of birth pangs and the first four seals are the same and . . . take place during the first half of the 70th week.”—Renald E. Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995), 16. “A comparison of Christ’s description of the beginning of birth pangs in Matthew 24:5-7 with the first four seals of Revelation 6:1-8+ indicates that the beginning of birth pangs and the first four seals are the same thing.”—Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 25.
8 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 63.
9 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 125.
10 As another example of Anti-supernatural Bias, consider Mounce’s observation: “As usual, John modifies his sources [Zechariah] with great freedom. Apparently for Mounce, it is John who is determining the content of his vision!”—Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), Rev. 6:2.
11 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 6:2.
12 Fausset sees this rider as “Evidently Christ, whether in person, or by His angel, preparatory to His coming again, as appears from Rev. 19:11+, 12+.”—A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 6:2.
13 Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), Rev. 6:2.
14 “How the Lamb who opens the seal can be the effect of the opening, and at the same time be the rider on a white horse, we cannot understand.”—E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), Rev. 6:2.
15 All four riders are representative personifications of forces. With this rider, there is also a correlation to an individual which the “spirit of antichrist” brings forth (1Jn. 4:3). “This rider, like the other three, is not an individual, but a personification of a growing movement or force that will be at work during this future period.”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 6:2.
16 “Rabbi Akiba proclaimed Bar Kokhba as Messiah in A.D. 132; the whole Jewish community of Crete followed a messiah named Moses in the fifth century; Abu Issa of Isfahan raised an army of 10,000 men; and European Jewry crowned Shabbetai Zvi messiah in the seventeenth century, although he later converted to Islam!”—Randall Price, Jerusalem In Prophecy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998), 192.
17 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 105-108.
18 Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), Rev. 6:2.
19 Marvin Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), 142.
20 Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, Rev. 6:17.
21 Arthur Walkington Pink, The Antichrist (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1999, 1923), s.v. “The Career of the Antichrist.”
22 J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: SP Publications, 1983), Dan. 8:23.
23 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 6:2.
24 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 108-109.
25 “The Greek language has two words meaning ‘crown,’ One is the word diadem, which is a king’s crown. It is the crown of a sovereign and of a person who is royal by his nature and by his position—a king. This is the kind of crown that Jesus wears.”—Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 160. “That the figure is not Messiah is indicated by the fact that the crown here is a stephanos crown, the crown of an overcomer or victor. It is not the diadem crown, the crown of sovereignty and royalty, the type of crown Messiah will wear in chapter 19.”—Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 206. “This rider wears the conqueror’s crown (stephanos); Christ will have a different kind of crown—the crown of kings (diadema).”—Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 105. “This rider wears a stephanos, a crown won as a prize; in Rev. 19:12+ Christ wears many diadēmas, royal crowns.”—MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 6:2.
26 Walter Scott, Exposition of The Revelation (London, England: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.), 155.
27 Pink, The Antichrist, s.v. “The Genius and Character of the Antichrist.”
28 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 62.
29 Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 6:3.
30 Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 340.
31 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 796.
32 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 6:4.
33 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 499.
34 Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 127.
35 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 752.
36 Ibid., 179.
37 Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 6:6.
38 Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 175.
39 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 272.
40 Ibid., Rev. 6:6.
41 Pink, The Antichrist, s.v. “Antichrist in the Apocalypse.”
42 Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 6:6.
43 Barnhouse, Revelation, 128.
44 “For while there is a famine of food, there will be an abundance of medicine, for the oil and wine are not hurt. These items were used for medicinal purposes.”—Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 219.
45 Gordon Franz, “Was ‘Babylon’ Destroyed when Jerusalem Fell in A.D. 70?,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 226-227.
46 Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 155.
47 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 6:6.
48 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 882.
49 M. R. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group, 2002), Rev. 6:8.
50 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 6:8.
52 See the world population clock: [http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/ipc/popclockw].
53 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 737.
54 “Metonymy of the Effect, the effect (death) put for the cause producing it (pestilence).”—Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 6:8.
55 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 6:8.
56 “The context of Ezekiel 5:17 (Eze. 5:12-16) indicates that the famine, beasts, pestilence, and sword of that passage are expressions of God’s wrath.”—Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 115.
57 Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 219.
58 Albrecht Durer (1471 - 1528). Image courtesy of the Connecticut College Wetmore Print Collection.
59 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 140.
60 Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 6:11.
61 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 366.
62 Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, Rev. 6:9.
63 Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 6:9.
64 “The description given in Revelation seems to fit the altar of incense better than the great altar of sacrifice which stood near the door of the tabernacle. The altar in Revelation is connected with the prayers of the martyrs (Rev. 6:9+), its fire is used to light the incense of the golden censer (Rev. 8:3+, 5+), and its location is ‘before God,’ which would accord much more closely with the place of the altar of incense that stood on the border between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, the inner shrine of the tabernacle.”—Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1957), 171.
65 “This Greek word occurs 105 times in the New Testament, and its uses and occurrences may be classified as follows: (1) Metonymy of the Cause, ‘soul’ put for ‘life,’ which is the effect of it. The natural life of the body, Mat. 2:20; 6:25, 25; 10:39, 39; 16:25, 25; 20:28. Mark 3:4; 8:35; 10:45. Luke 6:9; 9:56; 12:22, 23; 14:26; 17:33a; John 10:11, 15, 17; 12:25a, 25b; 13:37, 38; 15:13; Acts 15:26; 20:10, 24; 27:10, 22; Rom. 11:3; 16:4; Php. 2:30; 1Jn. 3:16, 16; Rev. 8:9+; 12:11+. Rendered ‘soul,’ Mat. 16:26, 26; Mark 8:36, 37; Luke 12:20; 1Th. 2:8. (2) The immaterial, invisible part of man: Mat. 10:28; Acts 2:27, 31; 1Th. 5:23; Heb. 4:12. (3) The disembodied man (2Cor. 5:3, 4; 12:2): Rev. 6:9+; 20:4+. (4) The seat of personality: Luke 9:24, 24; Heb. 6:19; 10:39. (5) Metonymy of Cause. The seat of perception, feeling, desire: Mat. 11:29; Luke 1:46; 2:35; Acts 14:2 (mind), 22; 15:24. (6) Metonymy of Cause. The seat of will and purpose: Mat. 22:37; Mark 12:30, 33; Luke 10:27; Acts 4:32; Eph. 6:6; Php. 1:27; Col. 3:23; Heb. 12:3. (7) The seat of appetite: Rev. 18:14+. (8) Metonymy of Cause, soul put for person. Synecdoche of the Part, an integral part of man (individually) is put for the whole person. Used of persons or individuals: Acts 2:41, 43; 3:23; 7:14; 27:37; Rom. 2:9; 13:1; Jas. 5:20; 1Pe. 3:20; 2Pe. 2:14; Rev. 18:13+. (9) Synecdoche of the Part. The expression ‘my soul,’ ‘his soul,’ etc., becomes by Synecdoche the idiom for me, myself, himself, etc. Used to emphasize the personal pronoun (a) in the first person: Mat. 12:18; 26:38; Mark 14:34; Luke 12:19, 19; John 10:24 (us); 12:27; 2Cor. 1:23; Heb. 10:38 (soul); (b) in the second person: 2Cor. 12:15; Heb. 13:17; Jas. 1:21; 1Pe. 1:9, 22; 2:25; (c) in the third person: 1Pe. 4:19; 2Pe. 2:8. (10) Synecdoche of the Part. ‘Soul’ (Gr. psyche) is also used of animals. An animate creature, human or other: 1Cor. 15:45; Rev. 16:3+. (11) The ‘inward man,’ seat of the new life: Luke 21:19; 1Pe. 2:11; 3Jn. 2. Compare the classification of the corresponding Old Testament term nephesh at Gen. 2:7 (note).”—Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Mat. 2:20.
66 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 142.
67 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 110, 119.
68 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, A Review of the Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, n.d.), 43.
69 John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966), Rev. 6:9.
70 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 176.
71 Friberg, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 107.
72 “ ‘Them that dwell on the earth’ is a semi-technical designation for mankind in its hostility to God.”—Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 159.
73 Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 6:11.
74 Barnhouse, Revelation, 132.
75 Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, Rev. 6:11.
76 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 126.
77 “As to who is persecuting these believers, this will be answered by Revelation 17+: namely, Ecclesiastical Babylon.”—Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 220.
78 Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev. 6:12.
79 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 119.
80 Ibid., 60.
81 McLean believes this earthquake to be correlated with the timing of the Abomination of Desolation: “If the time sequence of A (the Abomination of Desolation at the midpoint of the Seventieth Week of Daniel and the tribulation of the synoptics), equals B (at this time the people flee to the mountains and women are warned about impending dangers); and the time frame of B equals C (the people cry out for the mountains to fall on them); and the reference C equals D (the sixth seal of Revelation when the wrath of God and the Lamb initiate the great day of their wrath, and people cry for the mountains to fall on them), then A (the Abomination of Desolation at the midpoint of Daniel’s Seventieth Week), equals or occurs at the [same] time as D (the time of the sixth seal of the Apocalypse).”—John A. McLean, “Structure of the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., Dictionary of Premillennial Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 375-376.
82 In this passage Zerubbabel typifies the Messiah.
83 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 746.
84 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 6:12.
85 Fruchtenbaum recognizes “five cosmic disturbances: one before the seven years, three during, and one after.”—Fruchtenbaum, A Review of the Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, 25.
86 Fruchtenbaum, A Review of the Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, 25.
87 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 66-69.
88 Passages describing astronomical signs: Isa. 5:30; 13:10; 24:23; 30:26; 50:3; Jer. 4:23-28; Eze. 32:7; Joel 2:10; 2:31; 3:15; Amos 8:9; Mat. 24:29; Mark 13:24; Luke 21:25; 23:45; Acts 2:20; Rev. 6:12+; 8:12+; 9:2+.
89 Concerning the worship of heavenly bodies: Gen. 11:4; Deu. 4:19; 17:3; 2K. 17:16; 23:5, 11; 2Chr. 33:3; Job 31:26-28; Isa. 47:13; Jer. 8:2; 10:2; 19:13; Acts 7:42; Rom. 1:25; Rev. 8:12+.
90 Some believe these stars could refer to fallen angels. “The sixth seal marks the end of the first half of the tribulation, so these stars could be the expulsion of Satan’s host from Heaven (Rev. 12:7-12+ with 12:3-4+).”—Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 6:13.
91 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 154.
92 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), Rev. 6:13.
93 Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 6:13.
94 As we forewarned the reader in our discussion concerning The Genre of the book of Revelation, many interpreters part ways here from the Golden Rule of Interpretation in favor of subjective “apocalypticism.” “The details of this dramatic description of a universe in turmoil are drawn from the common stock of current apocalypticism. They are not to be taken with complete literalness. Those who first read John’s description would not have bothered to debate whether or not the details were to be taken literally. They were part of a well-established tradition that went back through contemporary apocalyptic literature to the early prophetic portrayals of the day of the Lord.”—Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 161. We might ask who decides what “complete literalness” means? Which parts are literal and which parts are not? Are the men literal? But not the stars? “The suggestion of combining symbolic and literal (Mounce) is fraught with hermeneutical difficulty.”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 6:12. Also: how would God convey these events if they were literal? The Anti-supernatural Bias of these interpreters makes it nearly impossible for God to tell us of catastrophic events because they always get recast as “apocalyptic” and therefore not literal.
95 Concerning worship of heavenly bodies: Gen. 11:4; Deu. 4:19; 17:3; 2K. 17:16; 23:5, 11; 2Chr. 33:3; Job 31:26-28; Isa. 47:13; Jer. 8:2; 10:2; 19:13; Acts 7:42; Rom 1:25.
96 However: “The difficulties of the symbolic interpretation are insuperable, while no difficulties whatever attend the literal interpretation.”—Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, 274.
97 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 6:14.
98 Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 6:14.
99 That is, until the regeneration of the Millennial Kingdom (Mat. 19:28) and later, the eternal state (Rev. 21:1+).
100 Even today, charts of Alaskan waters made prior to the 1964 earthquake carry a disclaimer indicating that actual depths may vary by dozens of feet from that shown on the chart.
101 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 881.
102 Concerning the omniscience of God: 2S. 7:19; Job 24:1; 28:24; 31:4; Ps. 69:5; 139:2-4; 147:5; Isa. 40:28; 41:21-26; 42:9; 43:9; 44:7; 45:21; 46:10; 48:3-5; Jer. 12:3; Dan. 2:10+, 27+; Mat. 6:8; Luke 7:39; 12:6; Acts 15:28; Rom. 11:33; Rev. 2:23+.
103 Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 221.
104 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 6:17.
105 Renald E. Showers, “The Day of the Lord,” in Elwood McQuaid, ed., Israel My Glory (Westville, NJ: Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, March/April 2003), 18-19.
106 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 6:17.
107 Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, 147.
108 We will use the term “prophetic” for “proleptic” since most readers are more familiar with that term.
109 “The aorist tense describes an undefined action that normally occurs in the past.”—William D. Mounce, Greek for the Rest of Us (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 157, 160.
110 Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, 164-167.
111 Tommie P. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Toronto, Ontario: The Macmillan Company, 1955), 198.
112 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 460.
113 Rosenthal misrepresents Isaiah: “The prophet Isaiah said men would flee to the caves of the mountains immediately before the Day of the Lord.”—Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, 175. This makes little sense. Why would they flee before that day when it is the events which attend the day which they recognize as being God’s wrath which cause their flight?
114 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 6:17.
115 Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, 147.
116 Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 120.
117 Morris, The Revelation Record, Rev. 6:17.
118 Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev. 6:17.
119 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 159.